Improving the Collective Tactical Skills Is the Primary Goal During the Off-Season, Too

“Now that’s it’s the off-season, it’s time for their players to concentrate their strength and conditioning. Enhance their flexibility, strength, endurance, quickness.”

This cliche sounds logical but it’s a misunderstanding.

Yes, basketball players are relatively stiff and weak. Their max V02 is usually okay but not that great. They are not quick like sprinters are quick.

So, their physical characteristics are not that hard to develop during the summer months. Compared to the in-season, coaches tend to minimise the amount of tactical and technical training and concentrate on physical capabilities.

The thinking is that during the off-season, there is only so much tactical and technical training that it doesn’t hinder physical training.

This will seem to work. Flexibility, strength and endurance will develop. There may be marginal gains in quickness, too, due to the enhanced lower-body strength and power.

However the goal of basketball training is not to enhance players’ physical capabilities but rather to optimally enhance the game performance of the team.

As I’ve written before, the transference is everything. The physical capabilities serve the the technical skills. The technical skills serve the tactical skills. The individual tactical skills serve the team’s collective tactical skills.

So, the improvements in the physical capabilities are beneficial only for as long as they transfer to the collective tactical skills.

The collective tactical skills are the primary dimension in the mediation model of basketball training. So, the thinking should be that there is only so much physical training tactical that it doesn’t hinder tactical and technical training.

That’s why basketball players’ physical capabilities are modest. Tactical and technical training hinder physical training. And that’s how it should

A basketball player’s primary assets are her tactical and technical skills. If she prioritises physical training rather than her tactical and technical training, her training may optimise the development of physical capabilities. But it will not optimise the development of her basketball playing ability – which is always the goal of basketball training.

In other words, if a basketball player trains optimally her strength and quickness are not going to improve optimally. That’s because from multiple hours of tactical and technical training, she’ll be too fatigued for optimal physical training. Or the physical training has taken too much practice time.

Because of running up and down the floor for hours her endurance will improve but only up to a point. That’s because training is not optimised from the viewpoint of endurance either.

If she’s stiff she’ll remain stiff because getting more flexible will not enhance her basketball performance.

This doesn’t imply that there shouldn’t be physical training. Of course there should be because physical capabilities serve as the basis for technical and tactical skills.

Some ideas and implications

1) Integrate all training to maximise the net gain and to ensure optimal transference. In other words, implement tactical, technical, and physical training into continued practice sessions. (The training facilities certainly may limit this possibility.)

2) Ignore the traditional periodisation model. Basketball training is basketball training, come summer or winter. Keep the ratio between tactical, technical, and physical training about the same throughout the year.

3) Have basketball coaches plan and lead your team’s physical training. If you hire a strength & conditioning specialist there is a higher risk that improving physical capabilities becomes a goal in itself.

4) Consider the minimum effective dose. Physical training is not to be optimal per se, but optimal relative to the goals of the team. The less time and energy you spend on physical training, the more time and energy you have left for tactical and technical training. For example, gains in strength training are greater if you do three squat sets instead of one. However, considering the whole integrated training process, doing just one set of squats may be the better choice.

These are common reasons why unnecessarily much practice time gets spent on physical training.

  • Warm-ups (typically featuring dynamic stretching) are unnecessarily long.
  • There is static stretching.
  • There are core-specific exercises.
  • There are unnecessarily many sets per exercises.
  • The recovery periods are unnecessarily long.
  • There are unnecessarily many exercises per session.
  • Time is spent on fine-tuning lifting techniques (typically those of olympic lifts).

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